Last month, Arsenal launched a new documentary charting the recoveries of Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema from their anterior crucial ligament (ACL) injuries.

The series, titled ‘Step by Step’, has a total of five episodes and shares a look at Mead and Miedema’s lives, struggles, and joint journeys back onto the pitch.

It allows the viewers an insight to what really goes into the surgery and rehabilitation for these injuries, with a hope to demystify them and provide younger players with an idea of what recovery can be like.

ACL injuries are vastly more common in women’s football than in the men’s game with female players being six times more likely to tear their ACL compared to men.

With women also being 25 per cent less likely to return to the sport after sustaining such an injury, Step by Step shows that it is possible to return to a high level, as well as highlighting the need for more medical research specific to the women’s sport.

The documentary also features Leah Williamson and Laura Wienroither, two other Arsenal players, meaning that there were at least four players out at some points of last season.

Across the sport, it’s estimated that between 25 and 30 players had to miss the 2023 World Cup due to ACL tears. Whereas only four men had to miss the World Cup in 2022, showing the scale of this disparity.

Little research has been done into this epidemic, but what has been done hasn’t found a conclusive answer as to why women are victim to so many more ACL injuries than men.

One sports rehabilitation and medical researcher, Kat Okholm Kryger, said: ‘’These reasons can be split into two categories – nature and nurture.

‘’Because of the way women’s football is managed, with poorer facilities, less high level training at a young age, ill-fitting kit, it could be this that is causing the spread of ACL tears.’’

Since the docuseries was released, Miedema has now scored her first goal since her return to the field, and so her first goal in 413 days, against Liverpool.

After the game Miedema told Sky Sports: “I was a bit scared coming back.

‘’I put a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted to be old me again – or even better than old me even.

She added: ‘’ I’ve finally started enjoying training again and being back out there with the girls.

”I don’t think about my knees anymore.”

Leah Williamson has also played her first minutes back on the pitch, even assisting a goal for Beth Mead who made her own bright return in November last year.

However, there is far more bad news than good as Chelsea and Australia striker Sam Kerr has already suffered an ACL injury this year, as has Manchester City player Jill Roord.

Considering January is only just coming to an end, this shows the scale of what truly is an epidemic.

Mead and Miedema’s documentary is an important one, as it brings attention to this issue, and can hopefully create change for the next generation of female footballers.

In Mead’s own words: “It’s important we, as a collective, try and get more done for ACLs and research into it.

‘’It is way too common in the women’s game […] if that ever happened in the men’s game a lot more would have been done sooner.’’

Featured Image courtesy of El Loko Foto via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. License details can be found here.